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Expo aims to educate people on hemp

By Ben Rodgers
Editor

ONEIDA – One group is hoping to plant the seeds that will lead to the growth of industrial hemp in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Department of Agricultural, Trade and Consumer Protection launched an industrial hemp pilot program this year that allows growers and processors the ability to try the crop in their fields.

“I would say the largest misconception is that industrial hemp is the same as marijuana and that’s far from the truth,” said Bill VerVoort, Onedia Community integrated food systems coordinator. “Industrial hemp has THC, which is the product that makes you high, of .3 percent. Marijuana has anywhere from 6 to 20 percent THC.”

Without the principal psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant, VerVoort those looking for a buzz will be out of luck with industrial hemp.

Bill VerVoort

“If they were to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole, they’re not going to get high. They’re going to sit on the toilet because it’s a laxative, but they’re not going to get high,” VerVoort said.

The Oneida Nation hopes to educate people about the benefits of industrial hemp at the free Growing Our Future Agricultural Expo from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, at the Norbert Hill Center.

With the pilot program in Wisconsin, would-be hemp growers have hurdles to clear before they can even plant seeds.

Would-be-growers must obtain a one-time license, and register with the DATCP each year, but prior to that they have to pass a background check, pay fees associated with the license and provide GPS coordinates of their fields, said Donna Gilson, DATCP spokesperson.

Before the harvest, growers then have to notify the department, which will send someone to collect a sample of the crop, drive it to a lab in Madison, where it must be verified as containing .3 percent or less THC, Gilson said.

Then the crop is shipped to processors, which also need a license, she said. Those processors would be the ones to purchase the hemp, turn it into a usable commodity, and sell it to the market.

DATCP received 264 applications for growers, and 105 for processors, Gilson said. All but a handful were issued licenses with roughly 10 having incomplete applications and one being denied due to a prior conviction.

The window for a license is closed for this growing season, but Gilson said another application period will open in the fall.

VerVoort said once hemp hits the market as a commodity it has the power to disrupt things.

“To be brutally honest, once hemp was out of the picture, plastics, timber and pharmaceuticals all went up because hemp was the direct competition,” he said.

The Controlled Substance Act of 1971 placed industrial hemp along with marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance, which, according to legislation, states it has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use treatments.

“The federal government basically defrauded the American people,” VerVoort said.

At the June 9 expo people can learn about the benefits of hemp, as a commodity, healthy snack or as medication.

Hemp can be turned into biodegradable plastics and paper, made into cloth and even be used in concrete, VerVoort said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one acre of hemp produces as much paper as 4.1 acres of trees. Plus hemp matures in 100 days, instead of the decades it takes for a tree to reach maturity.

Early Bibles, Betsy Ross’ flag and the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were all printed on hemp.

In 1941, Popular Mechanics did a story on a car built by Henry Ford that was constructed from hemp and used hemp gasoline to run. The hemp panels of the car had the impact strength of 10 times that of steel.

Medically speaking, hemp seeds also have nutritional value, said Crystal Meltz, cultural events coordinator.

The seeds can be put on a salad or dried into a powder that has complex carbohydrates, reduces pain and inflammation, stabilizes blood sugar, lowers cholesterol and contains a good source of protein and essential fatty acids, Meltz said.

There will also be samples of hemp snacks at the expo.

CBD oil and the medicinal properties of hemp will also be discussed at the event.

Former NFL lineman Kyle Turley will share his story and how CBD oil has benefited him after his retirement from football.

Expo goers can also participate in a Q&A over Skype with established industrial hemp growers Blake Hunter, Winona LaDuke and Tom Cook.

Hemp still has a long path before becoming widespread in Wisconsin, VerVoort said. But he hopes an expo like this will open people’s eyes.

“I’d like to see monies distributed amongst entrepreneurs and farmers instead of big corporations,” he said.

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